Saturday, October 3, 2009

Our [Neighbor's] Backyard Project

Our next door neighbors stopped by at the beginning of the summer to ask a favor. They decided to replace their above ground pool with an in-ground pool, and since we live on the corner they wanted to ask if the workers could use our yard to access theirs.

It didn't sound like a big deal. There would maybe be a few ruts from a truck tire or two they said. And they would fix anything that might happen to our yard.

No problem. We said it would be fine and Evy was actually excited to see some construction equipment up close. Besides, we were being good neighbors. And I have no idea how they could have possibly done it without coming through our yard (there did not appear to be a plan B).

So we agreed to the idea and the ruts. We had no idea that we would end up with a road right through our backyard.

Sinkerbeam Street

It was a dirt road, but a road nonetheless. Sinkerbeam Street. It kind of ruined the yard and our ability to do anything out back for the entire summer. But I could park a lot closer to the house.

The road happened on the first day of work. During the long summer months we would also experience a wake up call every day at 7:00 in the morning via a squeaky dump truck tailgate (and worker guys), a fiberglass pool shell suspended over top of our house, and a cement truck sitting in the middle of the backyard. There were more things, of course, but those are the highlights of the project.

It took longer than expected (when has a construction job ever been on time?), but in the end everything was filled in and grass was planted. Our neighbors even watered it every day to give the seeds a chance to grow in the scorching late summer heat. Then Pythian's Blight came along, and after a fungacide treatment, they planted grass again. It finally came up and things are pretty much back to normal.

I have to park my car in the driveway again, but it was all worth it. I'm pretty sure we're allowed to use their pool whenever we want.

Just remember this - if your neighbors ask you for a little favor that may involve a couple of ruts in your yard, think about it very hard before you answer. And then move.

More pictures of our [neighbor's] backyard project are on Flickr. Some are even taken by Evy with her digital camera.

Friday, September 18, 2009

iPhone Icons

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can now add any of the sinkerbeam sites to your home screen and you'll get a specialized icon instead of a mini version of the webpage.



Why would anyone care? I don't know. It's kind of a geek thing to do. But in a cool technology way.

Don't know what I'm talking about? That's OK - you won't notice anything different on the sites. You could always get one of these devices and see for yourself, but don't do it just to see the sinkerbeam icons. They look like the ones in the picture.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Corsica Sighting

I happened upon an old friend today. As I was driving from work to dinner I passed the Corsica. Yes, the Corsica. It was just sitting in a small used car lot on the side of the road.

Used Car Lot

Trust me, I know it was mine. The pattern of paint chips on the front bumper and the crooked hood gaps left no doubt.

Corsica Sighting

I traded it in relatively far down Route 19 - in another county. Now it's only about three minutes from my house. Maybe the Corsica is trying to inch its way back home.

Because of the price written on the front windshield, however, I think it may be sitting right where it is for a long time...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Wheels

We picked up the new (to me) car yesterday and traded in the beloved Corsica. I didn't want to wait until the last minute or anything since the end of the month is coming up soon...

2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser

Yes, it's a PT Cruiser. I know it is the 2008 Corsica equivalent. I can't stop myself.

It is just over a year old and has just over 13k miles. It is certified and warrantied and the price was right. And it is an upgrade from the '95 Corsica, with crazy stuff like power windows and keyless entry and a digital compass!

It's quite versatile, too, with that movable shelf in the back and everything. Plus it feels good just knowing that I have that option to take out the seats and leave them at home (even though I'll probably never do it).

So there you have it. A month of car shopping and I'm in just under the wire.

Now I have to spend this $5 Best Buy Reward Certificate that expires at the end of May. Hopefully that process will be easier.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Car Shopping

The Corsica has not been replaced just yet. We're actively shopping, though, which means that I keep looking at the same 20 vehicles over and over again on the internet.

After searching a lot of virtual used (sorry - pre-owned) car lots for the past couple of weeks, I think I know what I want. I have even filled out a few web forms to request an "internet price" from the dealership's internet sales manager.

In return my inbox is filled with form letter emails. They tell me how great their dealership is and ask for me to call them about the car. Or they quote me the same price that was on the website I just visited. I think they are missing the point about being an internet sales manager.

Here are some other observations from the process:
  • Ford is still hanging in there with the "numbered buttons on the door" security system. They also have the keyfob keyless entry feature, but apparently you need another option to get inside without using the key.

  • Chrysler is still hanging in there with the analog clock built into the dashboard. It's like someone decided to glue a wristwatch above the radio.

  • Car salesman do not read the newspaper or surf the web. They are completely oblivious to the fact that sales were down 48% last quarter and/or their company is going bankrupt. They think the car on the lot is still worth what it sold for in 2006.

  • I am the only person who thinks that a license plate bracket hanging off the front of a car in Pennsylvania is not a good thing.



    To me, it screams "I'm from a different state in the union - one which requires a front license plate." Or worse, "someone just drilled a couple of holes in my painted front bumper for no good reason."

  • I still don't understand why I need to haggle about the price of a car like I'm buying fruit at an outdoor market in Bangladesh. Plus, I don't think the Bangladeshi produce guy would be wearing a bad suit.
So there you have it. I don't really feel like I'm making any progress so far. Maybe I should just repair the Corsica and wait for the pending liquidation sales. I know my daughter would be OK with that strategy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Time To Go

It is time to replace the Corsica.

I realize that I've owned it for 10 years and we've just crossed the 100k milestone. But it needs some work to make it through inspection (plus a host of other repairs to keep it going). We have finally crossed the "not worth it anymore" point.

So what can possibly replace this classic, mostly reliable piece of mid-1990's engineering? I'm not sure yet. My daughter would like to just get another Corsica as a successor. A red one.

During the week I drive to work and park on the street in the city, so I don't want anything too new or too big or too nice. I like the idea of a hatchback to get more interior space for people, stuff, and a weekend run to Lowe's. I want keyless entry because the Corsica doesn't have it (and you can never have too many remotes). The internet tells me that all of these things combine to put me in the market for a compact crossover. That sounds interesting.

I'm on the lookout. The Corsica's inspection and registration run out at the end of May, so we'll probably wrap up the process before then. Probably.

If you're in the market for a pre-owned late model sedan with a V6 and a new driver's door, let me know. I've got one for sale that will make you the coolest kid on the block. It has worked for me for the past 10 years.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Restaurant Quiz

I've got an analogy test question for you (think SAT).
Olive Garden is to Chocolate Lasagna
as
Chili's is to __________

Not that I want to turn this blog into a restaurant rant site or anything, but another "best item on the menu" has been deleted. Although not as serious as the chocolate lasagna disappearance, this one also makes very little sense.

The answer is Honey Lime Dressing. It was one of Chili's signature items, something that stood out and called for me to be healthy and order a salad. And just like chocolate lasagna, it is gone. They now serve the same dressings as every other restaurant in America. Oh, and four different kinds of Ranch. Very differentiating.

We haven't been to Chili's in a while, but this was a pretty sad visit (and not just because of the dressing offerings). We called ahead but were not put on any list. We were served tortilla crumbs and salsa. My daughter's mac'n'cheese arrived 20 minutes later than our dinners and it was cold. Not "left on the counter for 20 minutes" cold. I'm talking about refrigerator cold. Yuck.

I'm not sure I should be going out to eat anytime soon. Sure, it gives me something to write about, but I feel like I'm ruining these things for everyone else. I like Dairy Queen's Blizzards, too.
Watch out...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

100,000 Miles



The Corsica reached 100,000 miles today after almost 15 years on the road. It takes a long time to reach 6 digits in 10 mile increments...

I was rounding the exit ramp from Crosstown Boulevard to 7th Avenue when it happened, so that's why the picture is dark and blurry. That's also why I'm going 18 miles per hour.

I'd like to thank everyone who made this possible:
  • My grandparents - the original Corsica owners
  • My father (and his garage)
  • Gormley Automotive
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • Point Breeze Automotive and my cousin Michael
  • State Farm Insurance
  • City Collision, Inc.
Here's to another 100,000! You never know...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Posts Update VII

Again With The Chocolate Lasagna?
There are now 85 comments on this post and it ranks number two in a google search for "chocolate lasagna." Unfortunately, the delightful dessert is still not back on the menu so I have not been back to the Olive Garden.

Two Poles And A Mound Of Dirt
We are back to having just a single telephone pole in our front yard. Over the span of about a month, many crews of guys with bucket trucks and hard hats visited our two poles and moved all of the wires (and whatever else hangs up there) from the old one to the new and improved one. All of my utilities are still performing in the same way as far as I can tell.

A few weeks later they took the old pole away and filled in the hole. They did not, however, plant any grass in the surrounding eroded dirt mound. I'll get to that at some point.

Out Of The Cellar
This could be the year for the Pirates. Not to finally win a World Series, make the playoffs or anything like that. If they turn in another losing season this year it will be their 17th in a row, setting a record for futility among all major professional sports since records have been kept. The worst. Ever. Hey, they have a nice stadium though.

Bill's Family
Bill Cowher turned down an offer to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for the 2009 season. I think he read my blog entry and just wanted to prove me wrong. Touché, Bill. You got me this time. Thank goodness.

Auto Servi6e
Just a bit after I made fun of their graffiti-esque sign, the entire garage and attached building were given a fresh coat of real paint.



I'm telling you - important decision makers read this blog and act or react accordingly (see Bill Cowher above). If we could just break through to the Olive Garden board of directors...

Anyway, soon after the exterior makeover a new business moved into the building beside the garage. It was called The Outer Skin II or something ridiculous like that. Their signs advertised Exoticwear, whatever that is, and there were a bunch of scantily clad mannequins in the front windows wearing seasonally themed undergarments. The business has already closed down and/or moved out. I don't think there was a market for Exoticwear in that particular area.

The Corsaga
I just turned 99,900 miles in the Corsica, and I have a camera in my car just waiting for the big day. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Corsaga

My Corsica has been through a lot in the past year. Almost too much for one car to handle. Almost.

Sorry this is so long - it really is a saga...

4.17.08
The engine had been running a little hot for a few days and the problem started to get worse on my way home from work. I was just trying to make it to my driveway before the car overheated and so far I had been pretty lucky with traffic and stop lights. Then I made the right turn into my neighborhood. That's when the cop who was following me turned on his lights (the red and blue ones) and pulled me over.

He said my license plate was coming up "dead" - which usually means that it was surrendered back to the state because it's no longer needed. It was, however, still hanging on the back of my car. This is not the first time I've had trouble with my custom plate. I assumed it was another mix up and went on my way with a warning (or whatever) and documentation of the incident (since I had all of the correct paperwork).

The officer never said why he ran my plate in the first place. I think he was just intrigued with the awesomeness of it. But my engine reached about 1,000 degrees while sitting and waiting for the process to work itself out. When I finally got home I let the car cool down and checked the oil.

It looked like a mint chocolate milkshake. Antifreeze had seeped through the gaskets in the engine and mixed with the oil. That is very bad.

My father and my mechanic both confirmed that it was very bad.

My wife and I decided that the best thing to do was to see if everything could be fixed and if it made sense to do the repairs and keep the Corsica on the road. It's a great car for driving in the city, it still gets good gas mileage and we own it.

We were just under the break even point.

4.18.08 - 4.25.08
The Corsica ended up being in the shop for an entire week. Luckily, I was out of town on a business trip so it wasn't too much of an inconvenience. It needed an engine rebuild, new gaskets, a new thermostat, a radiator flush, an oil change/refill, a state inspection and an emissions test. The new wiper blades were free. Bonus.

5.12.08
I had waited to renew the Corsica's registration until we made sure we were keeping it. I went to the PA DMV website to fill out the forms and pay for the next year. I got all the way to the last screen, but when I clicked to confirm I was given an error code and a phone number to call.

Apparently the police officer was right. My plate was not coming up at all in the DMV database. I explained the situation (which was that there was no situation and I hadn't done anything). They said an investigation team would be put on the case (I'm serious) and that I would get a call in three business days.

Then two amazing things happened. I did get a call on the third business day, and the person on the other end of the line was helpful. Remember, this is the DMV we're talking about. Amazing.

She said that it was a clerical error and everything would be corrected - all I needed to do was make an etching of my plate and fax it to them. Yes, an etching.

So at 10:30 in the morning I'm kneeling down on Penn Avenue in the city behind the parallel parked Corsica making a rubbing of my license plate with a piece of copy paper and a pencil. If you think I raised the eyebrows of some people walking by (and a policeman in a patrol car), you are correct.

I faxed it and they fixed it. I was able to renew the registration online by noon.

I really need to get a new license plate.

5.30.08
When I pulled out of work onto the main road, it sounded like something was stuck between my left front tire and the wheel well. There was a thumping noise every time I straightened out the car after turning left. I got home using only right turns and took the tire off of the car. The torsion bar had broken through the rusty lower control arm and shattered all of the bushings in the area (read: this is bad).

It was fixed in less than a day (not by me).

7.31.08
I came out of work to a flat tire. I changed it to the donut spare using the quality tools included underneath my trunk carpeting, washed myself off, and drove home.

8.1.08
Steph took the tire (from yesterday) to get patched. Meanwhile, I got into the Corsica to come home from work and pressed the brake pedal to shift out of PARK. It went all the way to the floor. Brake fluid was spraying all over my left rear tire and the road. I called AAA and both the Corsica and I got a ride home via tow truck. The driver and I got to talking about all of the stories above this one and he charged me half price because he felt bad for us.

It was fixed in less than a day (not by me).

The patched tire was reattached for free. Bonus.

12.6.08
I was at the mall trying to buy a new digital camera. When I called, the store said that they had one in stock, but they did not actually have one. I was only there for ten minutes, but during that time it started to snow outside and there was already a coating on the parking lot. And there was traffic everywhere.

It took 45 minutes to get to the intersection at the top of the mall's main entrance road. As I was waiting at the stop sign, the traffic light at the bottom of the entrance turned green and (what I would find out later to be) a guy in a black 2007 Subaru Impreza came toward me up the hill. His car started to turn but then slid on the fresh snow and slammed right into my driver's door. No one was hurt, and after 20 minutes of information exchange I was again sitting in traffic on my way home. The door still worked but was buckled in the middle and didn't seal correctly. Even when it was closed I could hear the outside from the inside.



The Subaru's insurance rep called a few days later and said they would pay for all of the Corsica's repairs. I even got a PT Cruiser to drive for the three days it took to replace, prep, paint and buff the new door on my old car.

All in all, fixing the Corsica cost his insurance company twice what it is worth. Plus the rental. I have no idea why they didn't total my car, but I'm OK with their decision.

I can, however, still hear the outside when I'm inside. But I did get a little bottle of custom mixed touch-up paint. Bonus.

2.15.09
The Corsica has over 99,750 miles on it and is still rolling. I'm hoping for 100,000 soon and fewer stories to tell...